Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thanks, Pillownaut!

Katie just received a special delivery from the mailman. She got a package from Heather, aka Pillownaut. When I commented on the Pillow Astronaut blog about Katie's recent fascination with space and astronauts, and bemoaned the fact that a NASA patch at a museum I attended was $9, Heather promised to send a care package to Katie with NASA items inside.
The package arrived today! At first, Katie was thrilled to have mail, and then gasped when she heard it was full of NASA items.

We dug into the box, and found a miniature astronaut and Space Shuttle, plus a patch and two big decals. There were lots of activity booklets with mazes and connect-the-dot games, plus a coloring book. She also got a shell necklace, paper soap (that was a fun little experiment in the bathroom!), and a deck of miniature cards.

The best part of the box was the REAL astronaut food. There were freeze-dried strawberries and freeze-dried ice cream. We immediately started snack time and tried the ice cream. It wasn't too bad - like a chalky marshmallow that got gooey in your mouth. Katie said, "I'm going to eat this every day!" She said the ice cream was her favorite part of the box.

What a fun, educational package! Thank you, Heather, for taking the time to send everything to our budding space enthusiast. We truly appreciate it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2-24-2005

My sister Mary woke me. I think it was sometime around 2:30 in the morning. Right, Mary? Or maybe that's when we pinpointed that it had happened.

She said, "He's gone." It took me about two seconds to register what she was saying. And then I immediately dismissed what she said and thought to myself, "No, he's not. She just hasn't checked his breathing right." I ran to his bed thinking she had to be wrong. The image that greeted me and is forever burned in my memory is one of unmistakable correctness. Not "rightness" because there was nothing right about it. But, yes, Mary was correct. He was gone. Dad was dead. His mouth was frozen open in one last gasp. Mercifully, his eyes were closed because he died in his sleep. Words cannot describe the stillness that permeated the room. He had left; his overwhelming bigger-than-life-ness had evaporated. Was that even possible?

The world slipped off its axis, and I can't quite remember how things happened from there. I know Dad's dog wouldn't leave his side. I didn't want to either, even though it was so eerie to be near him. The hospice nurse came to pronounce his death. She flushed his meds. His wife, Maureen, took the dog outside to go to the bathroom. Around daybreak, the funeral home came to pick him up. In a minivan. How abnormally normal. I waited to call Dan until a decent hour, not wanting to wake him too early. (He was in Missouri and I was in Virginia.) We called nearby family. I showered. I got on the computer. I shut down emotionally and didn't recover myself until Dan's flight arrived much later. Visits to the funeral home, people arriving at the door, and all I wanted to do was go back to 2:29am.

His last words to me? "I love you."

He's gone and now nothing more to be said. Nothing more can be said because he's not here to hear it. Right?

In our last coherent conversation, I told him that I would miss him every single day. And I do. I thanked him for all the ways he loved me and all the things he taught me, and that in doing so he taught his grandchildren too. I said he wouldn't be forgotten. I told him that every time I see a hawk, I think of him because of what he taught me about the birds. He promised me he would come back to me if there were any possible way.

I see a hawk almost every day now.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Catching Up

I didn't have much time to blog last week because my friend Beth and I were busy planning the teacher appreciation dinner for our Parents Day Out program. The dinner was Friday night, and went very well. I think the teachers had a good time, and now I'm glad it's over. So, now, I'll catch you up on our week!

Here's Jackson in a pot:












And Jackson with a little junk in his trunk (and front):












Jackson and I at the carousel on Friday:









Jackson in a clown wig:

Katie holding her cousin (Or is it first cousin once removed or something like that? - It's actually Dan's cousin's son... what would that be?):








Katie peeking out from under a sofa pillow:









This is a favorite of me and Katie:







And one more:
(Thanks for the great photos, Jeff!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

100 Somersaults

Katie is a budding gymnast. She has been rolling around on the floor lately, doing as many somersaults as she can. I just took a video of her completing 100 somersaults, but I won't make you watch all 100 of them. Here are the last few. Maybe I should start doing them with her. It must be a great ab exercise!

video

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cravers Hall of Fame

Did you know there is such a thing as the White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame? Betcha didn't, but now you do. And did you know that Dan and I were inducted into the CHOF Class of 2005? Well, now the secret is out of the bag. We were inducted with Dan's brother, Mike, and Mike's wife, Jennifer.

Here's the nomination letter I wrote in 2004:
"I want to nominate my husband, Dan, and my brother-in-law, Mike, for the Cravers Hall of Fame. They are the most devoted followers I know!
For as long as I have known my husband Dan (which is almost 12 years now) he has had a special affinity for Whitey’s. On one of the first dates we had in college, the subject of White Castles came up. He asked if I had ever had one, and I said I had once. But being a GRITS (Girl Raised in the South), I wasn’t much into Whitey’s. He was crushed! He told me how when he was in high school in St. Louis, he and his buddies used to drive to the nearest White Castle every Friday night and order the exact same thing and park in the exact same spot to eat together. Dan was determined to show me a good Whitey’s time, so he gathered a friend of mine and her date and we piled in to the car—at that exact moment—and drove all the way from Columbia, MO to the closest White Castle outside of Kansas City, MO. That’s about a two hour drive! And it was in the middle of the night! We got to the restaurant and—horror of all horrors!—it was closed until morning. Being the devotee that Dan is, we waited in the parking lot for a few hours until it opened. We were the first in the drive-thru for a steamy breakfast of Whitey’s. I still wasn’t convinced to love the unique taste.
As the years passed, Dan and I were married, and we lived in Kansas City for our newlywed years. Slowly, Dan changed my mind and I was turned on to the taste of Whitey’s, even though the closest one was a 10 mile drive into the city. I changed my ways and became a Whitey’s devotee.
By 2002, we had moved to St. Louis. I heard a spot on the radio advertising Valentine’s Day dinners at White Castles. I knew this was the perfect Valentine’s Day surprise for Dan. I called the information line and found out I had to make reservations. I reserved a table for two. We arrived at the White Castle on Valentine’s Day, and we were escorted to our table by a maitre d’. The tables had flowers on them, candles, and even tablecloths. We were handed a special menu, and then placed our order with the waiter. We couldn’t believe we were getting such full service at a White Castle! The waiter brought our meal to us on paper plates, and had us pose for a special souvenir Polaroid photo. It was one of the most memorable Valentine’s Days we have ever had.
Now Dan and I have a daughter named Katie (who is, by the way, totally unrelated to that Valentine’s Day at White Castle). She is only a year old, and has already had her first Slyder. She loved it, but I was a little afraid of the—ahem—after effects, so I didn’t let her eat too many. After she was done, I tried to get her to finish the rest of her dinner, but she refused to eat it until I put it into a White Castle box. She happily ate her green beans, as long as they were in the Slyder box.
As much as my husband Dan loves Whitey’s, my brother-in-law Mike is maniacal. He has been in love with White Castle almost his whole life. How much in love, you ask? Let me count the ways:
1. Mike has organized not one but TWO (!!!) White Castle Belly Bomber Blow Out Tours. What exactly is a BBBOT? Well, in 1994 Mike and 18 of his closest friends caravaned to every single White Castle in the St. Louis metro area—in one day. In those days, that was a total of 21 restaurants. The deal was that everyone had to eat something at each restaurant, even if it was only a drink or milk shake. We had our photo taken in front of each restaurant, with a chalkboard stating the chronological number of the pit stop. Restaurant managers were so surprised to see our tour that they started asking which restaurant was next on our list and called ahead to alert the kitchen for us. And just like a rock star concert, our tour included a commemorative t-shirt listing each stop on back. It was a blast! Mike planned a second tour the following year.
2. Mike got married in 2002. He told his wife that he wanted White Castles at the wedding reception. His wife compromised by surprising him with a trip to White Castle after the ceremony, before the reception. She rented a trolley bus to take the entire wedding party to White Castle, where Mike bought a case of 30 to go.
3. Remember that Valentine’s Day I mentioned above? On that same day, Jennifer took Mike to White Castle for a surprise Valentine’s Day meal. One of the local TV stations was there and interviewed Mike and Jennifer about their romantic meal. We were so jealous that Mike got to be a Whitey’s spokesman instead of us!
Now if you don’t consider these brothers true Craver Hall of Famers, I don’t know who is!"

The truth is that I wrote the nomination as a Christmas present for Mike and Dan that year, and never thought we'd be selected. It was Jennifer's idea to just nominate the brothers, and give the letter as a gift, which I did. Lo and behold, a few months later I got the call that all four of us were selected to be inducted in the CHOF. White Castle flew us up to their world headquarters in Columbus, Ohio for the weekend. We were treated like royalty. We were given a special tour of the building (where we even got to see a petrified White Castle that a Queen Elizabeth I ate), met the president, and had a press conference after our lunch of - of course - White Castles. We were presented with special plaques, and our names are permanently on display at the world headquarters. That night, we were the guests of honor at a very nice dinner, where we were given some other fun gifts like a White Castle cookbook, embroidered hats, and my favorite: a golf shirt embroidered with the CHOF logo and my very own name!

We had a great weekend, and enjoyed getting to know our other CHOF classmates. Turns out there were some serious hardcore White Castle fans, and their stories were pretty hilarious.

So... now you know. And, no, we do NOT get any discounts for being CHOFers. You'd think we'd at least get a lifetime 10% discount or something, right? Nope. Just the glory of being a hall of famer, and that really cool embroidered shirt.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Our Love in Lyrics

"I will still be falling in love with you through all the years to come." Jon Michaels, I Will

"All I ever wanted is in your eyes." George Michael, Father Figure

"So take every little piece of my heart. Take every little piece of my soul. Take every little piece of my mind. 'Cause if you're gone, inside, I'd die without you." PM Dawn, I'd Die Without You

"I remember we were driving, driving in your car. The speed so fast I felt like I was drunk. City lights lay out before us and your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder. And I had a feeling that I belonged. And I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone." Tracy Chapman, Fast Car

"How can I hold the part of me that only you can carry. It needs a strength I haven't found." Toad the Wet Sprocket, I Will Not Take These Things for Granted

"'Cause everything works, Love. Everything works in your arms." Matt Nathanson, Come On Get Higher

"And the wonder of it all is that you just don't realize how much I love you." Eric Clapton, Wonderful Tonight

Happy Valentine's Day, Hooney!

Friday, February 13, 2009

I Need To Go To Bed...

...but instead, I'm messing around with some photos of the kids at Obamicon.me. Look what I did. Isn't it fun?

What's Going On

I haven't blogged much this week, and it's not for lack of things to say! (Y'all know I am rarely at a loss for words.) I've just had so many things whizzing through my mind and can't quiet it down to focus! I even started a LIST of things I want to blog about. There are six things on the NOW list, and 14 on my LATER list. It's getting to be riduculous, and I've been waiting all week until I had time to write something meaningful. Well, folks, that just ain't gonna happen. So here's what you get instead: a brain dump!

  • Jackson came home early from Parents Day Out on Wednesday. Bummer. Stuff was coming out both ends. Ugh. He seemed fine yesterday, though, except for a rank diaper last night. And then this morning, he had another one. So, I'm not sure where things stand right now. He hasn't eaten at all today, so he shouldn't have anything left to come out. Right? The funny thing is I recently (within the last week) thought to myself, "I don't think either of my kids have ever had diarrhea while in diapers. Aren't I lucky?" Oh, the irony.
  • Today was the "Friendship Party" in Katie's kindergarten class. My friend Beth came to watch Jackson so I could be there for the party. This morning I thought about skipping out on it after Jackson's *yuck*, but I had planned it with the teacher and all the supplies were at my house. So Beth took care of Jackson and I got to go party. It turned out to be pretty fun, and I think the kids enjoyed themselves. I love volunteering in the class (I try to go once a week) and getting to know all the kids. They all try to jump up and run to hug me everytime they see me. I am a big distraction. I am trying not to be and I chastise them and tell them to SIT DOWN, but they don't listen much. It's just as well, because I like to hug them anyway.
  • I'm hoping to have good news at Weight Watchers tomorrow, and earn my first award since I lost my first five and then ten pounds. I worked hard at it this week, and even bought a new workout DVD because my daily elliptical workouts are starting to get boring and also starting to stress my joints. (Of course, that could be another lupus flare, but I'm just going to be in denial about that for right now.)
  • I'm taking a six week class at church called Body Life, and I am loving it. It's kind of the beginner's introduction to this particular church, and lays out the church's beliefs on things like spiritual gifts, the church's mission, and how to get connected. I'm reading The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero for the class, and I'm enjoying it way more than I expected (the book AND the class). That brings me to one of the things on my To Blog About List, because I feel that something huge is building in my life. A change is comin', y'all. But that's for me to write about in another post. It's going to take a lot of courage to say what I need to say, and I'm praying and waiting for the right time to let it loose on the world. Y'all help me with those prayers, okay?
  • The weather has been surprisingly lovely this past week, with highs in the 50s. Thank God for that, because last week I was starting to get depressed and fed up with my Raynaud's Syndrome in my hands. I dread making dinner every night, because touching cold food in order to cook it makes my hands feel like they've been burned. Sounds weird, doesn't it? How could cold feel hot? Oh, but it does.
  • I've been caught up in Lost again. I love that show and yet every time I finish an episode, I tell Dan, "I HATE this show!" Ugh! It is so frustrating! But. So. Darn. Good! Also on my To Do List? I have a compulsion to read the thousands of little facts on Lostpedia. Yeah, right. Like I have time for that! I have a feeling that'll be an even bigger time waster than Facebook. Where does the time go?
  • Oh, yeah, time. Does anyone know a recipe for making more? I have so many things that need my attention: the kids, Dan, planning a teacher appreciation dinner, organizing a Bible study with neighbors, taxes, Jamaica dreams, my moms' group, board meetings, Body Life homework, a swap, exercise, scrapbooking, American Idol, blogging, Valentine's Day plans, Girl Scouts, and some really cute crafts that have seared their images on my retinas. Oh, and dinner. (My daily dilemma.) I'm itching to get things accomplished, and trying to strike a balance between those needs and wants again. I found I'm doing well with the needs and now I want to move on to the wants. (Don't we all?!)

So... I think this is all for now. Isn't that enough? I feel like I'm forgetting something, but that's the perpetual status of my brain these days. Gotta. Slow. Down. And. Breathe.

Monday, February 9, 2009

In Print

Guess what?! Dan has made me an officially "published" author. That is, if you consider printing my blog and binding it for me as an "official" book. I know, I know. Not quite... but it's a start! And now my kids have a tangible record they can hold in their hands and read.
Dan printed my blog for me as a birthday gift, and I got the finished product this past Saturday. I am thrilled and really enjoy looking through it and seeing how the past year changed our lives.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

118 Books

I spent two hours cleaning Katie's room today... without her. (Which was my plan, so I could really clean and get rid of some things.) I organized countless rings, bracelets and necklaces in her jewelry "cabinet." I cleaned out a full box of papers that she had practiced writing, coloring and doodling on. And THEN I moved on to her bookshelf. Aack! She has 118 books that I organized by size and type (paperback vs. hardback). Part of me was gratified that she has so many books and such a great interest in reading. And the part of me was overwhelmed by it all too. 118 books in her room!? I wonder how many Jackson has in his room, not to mention the bookshelves on our main floor and basement!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A "Blog" from 1933

I have been wanting to post about my maternal grandmother's diary for a while now. Whenever I get ready to blog about some part of our day that might sound trivial and boring, I think of the diary I inherited from Mom. It was her mother's diary, and it is only four months' worth of entries from early 1933. It mentions mundane, trivial things but, oh! I do love it.

I have read it a few times, and it always makes me think of a simpler time. I love having a peek at Grandmother's life, and how she filled her days. Here's one entry from February 16, 1933: "Well I have had a busy day before me to-day. We gave Irene a shower to-night and there were 25 guests (women) there. Irene and I went to the show this afternoon. Saw Constant Bennett in 'Rockabye,' it was real good. Irene got lots of real pretty things I think. It was about 12:30 before we got home."
February 17: "I haven't been anywhere much to-day. Went to take my music about 4:30. When I got home John had already come home. I then cooked supper, so we ate and then got dressed for we were invited out to play some cards. We went down to Tranbargers to play. It was 12:30 when we got home."
February 18: "I have been home most of the day to-day. Geo and John didn't come home to lunch so I didn't have to prepare any. I have been in the cleaning business. Have got my house cleaned up good. Mr. and Mrs. Ran and children came over for awhile to-night. It is now 1:30 so guess I had better retire."
February 19: "We got up this morning about 8:30. To-day is Geo. Birthday so I had Mary to come up and eat a Birthday dinner with us. We sure did have a good time this afternoon. We rode over to Bristol. Didn't leave home until around 6 got back about 8 and about 9:30 we retired."

I was named after my mom's mom, and it's always been intriguing to me to think of what I might have inherited from her. Her creativity? Her looks? Her smile? Am I compelled to chronicle my life in diaries and blogs because it's something she did too?

Turns out she was pretty crafty. My mom wasn't, so I think maybe I got that from Grandmother. She writes a lot about different sewing, tatting and quilting projects she did. Here are the last entries in her diary.
April 25: "Well Mother and I have been piecing quilts all day. We are piecing 2. One for me and one for Mr. McGuire and believe me it is some job. I have been cutting out pieces until my fingers are so sore. Well it is now after 10 so as we have been working all day I think we will retire."
April 26: "Ran called and wanted us to go to Aid with her this afternoon but we didn't go. Irene came out and spent the afternoon with us. Mrs. Larkins came over to [sic] and after Aid was over Ran and Jimmie came out for awhile. To-night Geo, John, Mother and I went to the show. Saw a real good picture."
April 27: "Mother and I have still been piecing together quilts to-day. We went over to Ran's this afternoon and stayed a while. We then came home, fixed supper for the menfolks as they were going to Johnson City for a meeting. Mr. Ran went with them so Mary came over here and we pieced quilts. It is now 1 o'clock so guess we will retire."
April 28: "Another day has slipped by and we have still been piecing quilts."
I have two quilts I inherited from her, and I wonder if these are the ones they were piecing together in 1933? I love that she mentions "Mother," who must be one of my great-grandmothers. I love that her husband came home for lunch each day. I love imagining that maybe she sat in her bed each night and jotted a few thoughts before turning off the light and curling up to her husband. I love thinking of these ancestors as more than a name and date on a page, and thinking of the minutiae of their lives: love and duties and hobbies and birthdays and friends.
I love the link it gives me to the past, especially since I didn't know her well before she died. I hope that one day, this blog (and all the diaries I've kept in my life) will provide that same link to my children and their children.

Our Wagie Ride

On Wednesday, I promised that we would have our own Wagie Ride today in memory of little Tuesday. And lucky for us, the weather cooperated! Katie's still outside playing with Dan, and I just put Jackson down for his nap. Now I'm posting my photos of our Wagie Ride. The kids held blue balloons in memory of baby Aiden too, as Cynthiaa's blog has requested.
The kids really enjoyed being outside after all the bad weather, and so did I! While we walked, I thought of Tuesday and Aiden, and counted my blessings. For all you parents who can't hold your babies in your arms anymore, I'll squeeze mine just a bit tighter and give them your love too. Thank you for letting us all share in your grief, and for modeling grace for us.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The ME Interview

My friend Robin at AbFab Geek did a ME Interview this week, and I thought it sounded like fun. So I asked her to interview me and she sent me five questions. I answered them below. Yes, I know they are very wordy answers, but that's because Robin asked some really great, thought-provoking questions. Here they are!

1. You talk a lot about your faith journey as an adult. What were your church and religious experiences when you were young and how do you think they have influenced who you are today? I grew up in a mixed-faith home. Yes, my parents were both Christian, but Mom was Methodist and Dad was Presbyterian, [PC(USA)]. Serious, big-time Presbyterian. He was on the Presbytery, and an Elder of the church. A staunch WASP. He often preached and there was a time in the early eighties when he traveled to preach at different churches in the north Georgia mountains. I was along for some of those trips. Anyway, you'd think there wouldn't be much difference between Methodism and Presbyterianism. Don't kid yourself. In our house, there was a BIG difference. His and Hers. In the beginning, Mom mostly acquiesced to Dad's denomination. Until IT happened. I'm not sure what IT really was, other than the pastor at church took advantage of the congregation and many members left. My parents tried another Presbyterian church for a bit, but this was around the time that the fire had left their marriage too. After a while, Mom eventually made her home at a Methodist church and Dad tried to go with her but never really made the shift and was floating back to that original Presbyterian church (but the "bad" pastor had moved on by then). Meanwhile, I attended some Baptist services with my high school friends, and was born again at a Baptist youth group function. All this background is to say: I think my official childhood denomination was Heinz 57. Now what was your original question? Oh, yeah. I think all of this influenced me immensely. I am blessed to have the knowledge that God can be found anywhere, no matter what logo is on the church sign outside... and not always inside a church either. As an adult, that has translated in religious freedom for me. I have learned I am NOT tied to my parents' faith, and I've seen so many of my friends trying to come to terms with this same issue. They feel extreme guilt and confusion for not believing what their parents believe. My parents' struggle with integrating their faith in their marriage had some detrimental effects (for me AND their marriage), but it also showed me that faith is a personal choice. A path and a passion to aggressively pursue. My parents didn't just sit idly by, and that was a good lesson for me. I'm going to stop answering this question now. I think I could go on and on (and on...) because this is a great question with lots of answers about my personal history. Guess you'll have to buy my book one day for more of the story. Ha, ha. That brings us to the next question.

2. When you write your book, what genre do you think it will be? Oh, I do love you, Robin! Just the fact that you wrote "when" and not "if." Thank you, my friend. I pondered this question as I fell asleep last night. There are three books that I'd LOVE to be able to model. Two of them are obvious choices right now because I just finished reading them. They are Feathers From My Nest by Beth Moore and The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. (Go here for my review on them.) I think these two books could be classified as memoirs. The third book that came to mind as I fell asleep was one that I read when I worked in the ministry. It is The Country Called Life by Lou Guntzelman. It's a collection of essays on all kinds of random subjects: Lent, God, love, grief, happiness, silence, and even trees. Now, at the same moment that I write this answer, the same thoughts that I had when I started a blog are assaulting my mind again. Namely, WHO is going to want to read something I wrote?! There is a (loud) voice within me that I will have to work on answering (or silencing) before I can accomplish this dream. I guess I'll just have to develop my confidence until it out-shouts the critic within.

3. Were you crafty as a child and if so, what was your favorite thing to create? Oh, how I loved to paint. Until I realized I wasn't so good at putting what was in my head onto paper. I loved drawing too, when I was young-young. Like before age 10. I loved using puffy paint on shirts. (And now I've come full circle on that one.) And I really loved art class in elementary school, when it was more about being creative than learning artists' names and famous paintings. I loved using clay and firing random creations in the kiln. I still have the canoe, egg, and ashtray (doesn't everyone have one of those?) that I created. In middle school, I was one of those weirdos who liked woodshop. I would NEVER have admitted it back then, but I liked taking a board and making it into something useful. I thought the lathe was pretty cool too. Kind of mesmerizing. In college, I loved having a pledge daughter in my sorority and decorating things for her like a lap desk and her paddle. Once I graduated and got married, my creativity started really flowing with all the "extra time" I had on my hands (this was before kids, of course). I got my first scrapbook (thanks, Mary) and tried my hand at all kinds of crafts like basic painting, gold foil, decoupage, fabric transfers, and glass etching. I still have that passion to create and make something from nothing. When I'm in the zone and feeling "flow," I truly feel alive.

4. If you had written a note to yourself when you were sixteen years old to be opened by you on your last birthday, what is one thing you would have told yourself? (Or more than one thing if you would like.) I love that you asked this question! Every time I hear that song "Letter to Me" by Brad Paisley, I think of what I would say to myself. Although I'd rather write backwards instead of forwards like your question asks. But since you asked, here's what I imagine my cheeky 16-year-old self would have said to my 35-year-old self: "I hope by now you have found someone who really loves you. I hope you're skinny and drive a nice car. I hope you have three kids and that you're famous. Your kids are probably teenagers by now. Be nice to them and let them date the boys they want to date. Trust them more than Mom and Dad trust me. 35 is old, but I hope you're having fun!" Man, isn't she a sassy little brat? She thinks she's invincible, doesn't she? Little does she know what's coming down the pike. (Ever wonder where that saying comes from? I did, and here's what I found. Interesting...)

5. You used to work in news. What is the most shocking/funny story you can remember from there? The shocking comes to mind first, and here are three of them. One was the Valujet crash. I had nightmares about that for two weeks straight, because I was oversaturated with so many details from the AP wire. The second was when I worked in Kansas City and there was a flash flood that trapped some people on top of their cars. One man disappeared and police searched for his body for days. One of our photogs was there when the body was found downstream, and he got explicit video of it. I watched the tape, and was horrified by this awful drive in me to want to watch the tape. Ugh. The third thing that comes to mind is one of the catalysts for my departure from TV news. I was in a morning story meeting, and the assignment desk told us about a very young girl who had been raped overnight. They shared some of the details with us, and I was again horrified. This time, I couldn't believe we were sitting there discussing such gory details over coffee. And no one was flinching but me. That was my first sign that I had to get out of the biz. Now as for funny? Maybe the time that I brushed an anchor's hair out of his eyes while on a live shot out in the snow. Later, I was told that he wore a toupee. No wonder he about jumped out of his skin when my fingers went for his hair. Or how about the time I got to slide down a fire pole, a la Bridget Jones? Seriously. Or how every New Year's Eve, some people compiled a Dead List and took bets on who would croak in the coming year? Or the time I got to watch a U2 video being shot in downtown Kansas City? I loved the (small) perks that came with the job like free tickets, knowing some of the local celebrities, and all the characters I worked with. We had some great times. But I won't miss the anchors' egos, the crappy schedules, working every holiday, writing anchor packages, going live for the sake of going live, and doing the same time-waster stories over and over (the first baby born on Labor Day, the annual parades [too many drunks], how to safely shovel snow, etc.). Every now and then when major news breaks, I miss being able to read the AP alerts that came over the wire. I'm nosy that way. But the feeling is rare and fleeting, and I find myself thanking God that I'm out of the business for good. I hardly even watch the news anymore now, because it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

If you would like to participate in the ME interview, here are the rules.
1. If you want to be interviewed, leave me a comment that says "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you 5 questions. (I get to choose the questions.)
3. Update your blog with the answers to the questions and let me know when you have posted it.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment on your blog asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Wagie Ride

I'm sad tonight, and I'm barely even entitled to that because I haven't even known of these stories for more than one hour. And yet they make my heart ache.

My friend Scrappy Sue alerted me to the situation in this post. So I followed the links, and found these stories. Moms Without Blogs explains it best, but here's the link to Tuesday's mom's blog, Go Blog Yourself. And also Aiden's mom's blog, Confessions of a Yummy Mummy.

I am going to hug my kids a little tighter, and try to give them the love that these moms can no longer give their babies here, on this side of Heaven. And when I do this, I'll also be thinking of my friend Hillary, who lost her baby Natalie.

I hope you will join me for the "Wagie Ride" this Saturday, and remember these families in your prayers.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Horoscope for 2009

I want to share my horoscope for the year. I found it on Cafe Astrology (thanks, Marti!). I won't go into lots of detail here, but suffice it to say I already felt some major changes happening in my life lately. Yes, my lupus diagnosis late last year was a precipitating factor, but there are some other things that are rolling through my soul and laying a new foundation. And then I read this horoscope on my birthday, and it confirmed lots of things I'm already feeling. No, I don't put major stock into horoscopes and mostly I just use them for amusement. But this one did whisper a few confirmations for me. It's going to be a great year!
P.S. I underlined some points that spoke to me, like "publish a book." I can barely even fathom the thought! But when I read that, a bell clanged in my head and I realized (finally) that it truly is a dream of mine. We'll see where it leads...

"A greater awareness of moral issues, and a stronger than usual desire to improve and learn this year. This is a fortunate aspect that suggests optimism and confidence are with you, and you are able to attract fortunate circumstances into your life as a result. Problems are easier to resolve this year. Your social life will likely increase and bring you in contact with more influential, powerful, or simply happy and helpful people. Travel opportunities are likely. It is not uncommon to marry, have children, graduate college, increase income, do freelance work, get a promotion, publish a book, or receive public recognition under this influence. Matters related to universities, higher education, organized religion, publishing, legal affairs, and foreign interests proceed smoothly. You may assume a leadership role this year. You are likely to establish connections and/or relationships with people that help forward your own personal growth. Teamwork and camaraderie, as well as meaningful connections, are themes. You feel your life has definite purpose this year. Through your contacts with others, you are encouraged to grow. Mercury conjuncts Mars, sextiles Uranus and trines Saturn in your Return chart, suggesting much activity on mental and communication levels. Your mind is especially alert, active, and clear. These influences excite and over-stimulate the whole nervous system. Be careful to avoid cutting words and aggressive driving. You may be involved in frequent lectures, debates, and discussions during the year. You can convey your ideas more powerfully. You are quick to take the initiative and to put your thoughts into action. Adventuresome travel may be part of the picture. You may be more actively involved with young people. Steady progress in mental pursuits figures strongly in your year ahead. New ideas can be effectively put into action.
A mostly optimistic attitude can carry you far this year. You are very much on track when it comes to going after what you want and pursuing your goals, and mental pursuits thrive. Relationships are stimulating this year. You are eager to take on a challenge and happily engage in friendly competition. Overall emotional balance helps you in many areas of life."

My First Swap

So, I'm pretty excited to do my first swap through Mamarazzi. I'm not sure yet what I'm doing, but hopefully I'll figure it out. Now I get to start making a list of my favorites. That should be fun!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Nursery

I recently saw some blogs where people posted a "tour" of their child's nursery, and I wanted to do a tour of ours too. Bear with me. I know this might not interest some of you, so feel free to skip this post. But since a main purpose of Six Golden Coins is to have a chronicle for my kids, I want to take a moment to share this with them. (Aren't the rest of you lucky to be along for the ride? Yes. Nod your head. Yes.)

We decorated the nursery when I was pregnant with Katie. The original idea was to have a family tree theme for the room, because I wanted the baby to grow up with knowledge of its heritage. We didn't know the baby's gender until birth, so the family tree theme was nice and unisex too. Dan painted the walls a light yellow, and then painted the ceiling sky blue. And being the engineer that he is, he then painted a very true-to-life tree in the corner. And being the more creative person in our marriage, I didn't like it. We argued a bit over how the tree should look (I wanted more "cartoon-ish" and he wanted realistic), and then he improvised and came up with what you see. The tree overlooks the rocking chair and bookshelves. I taped some "tree decorations" on it to give it a three dimension feel (items like butterflies, birds and apples). Also notice the blue "sky" on the ceiling, complete with adhesive clouds. Nice touch, huh?

Near the tree corner is the changing table. It's really just a contoured changing pad on top of an old dresser. My paternal grandmother gave us the dresser as a baby present. She used to have it stashed in her basement, and had someone refinish it and paint it white for us. We drove all the way to Virginia to pick it up and bring it home about two months before the baby arrived. The shelves above the changing table are full of diapers, but you'll also see some of my favorite childhood storybooks, along with some of my old toys (even my original Cabbage Patch Kid!).

The crib corner is kind of the night version of the tree corner. We hung plush stars and a moon from the ceiling, and a little moon shelf. Two things you can't see in this photo are framed prints near the crib. They are prints from one of my favorite childhood authors/artists, Joan Walsh Anglund. I loved the book Morning is a Little Child. When I was pregnant with Katie, I asked Mom if she still had my copy of that book. She said she couldn't find it, so I ordered one from a used book store. Then once Katie arrived, Mom sent her my old copy. She had pasted an inscription on the inside cover, where I once wrote my name years ago.

Now, back to the whole family tree theme. After trying to diagram a family tree on paper, I realized that was a theme that wasn't going to work. My family alone has way too many branches (deaths, divorces, remarriages), and I couldn't figure out a nice illustration of that. So we went back to the drawing board and came up with the idea to have a photo border in the room. (This is my favorite part!) Dan bought some skinny chair rails at Home Depot and nailed them to the wall, a few inches apart. Then we taped photos inside the border, and Dan found sheets of plastic that we cut into strips and slipped between the wooden rails to protect the photos. The border by the changing table has been educational for both kids now, and kept them distracted during diaper changes. We use those photos to teach names of family members. There's also a photocopied note posted there that my dad wrote me before Katie was born. It helps me keep his memory alive.

I used one wall to display family tree photos, and the photos show Dan as a baby, his parents as babies, his parents' parents, etc. The photos are labeled with the person's name and their role in our family tree. I remember some nights when I was up nursing at 2am, I'd look at the photos and think of all those people whose lives joined to form the little one laying across my lap. It made me feel such a connection to the ancestors who came before, and those who have yet to arrive.

When Katie turned three, we moved her out of her crib and into her own big girl bed in another room. The nursery stayed the same and was ready for Jackson's arrival in 2007. I know one day we'll change it to suit his tastes, but for now I love the way it is.

EDIT: I have another photo to add, because I forgot one thing that we added to the nursery between Katie and Jackson's births. I'm such a dork - how could I forget this one? It was pretty monumental! It's the letter that my dad wrote to my brother Jackson when he was born. Dad had it framed and given to Jackson on his 16th (or was it 18th?) birthday, and it was in Jackson's possession until he died. His wife had it for a while, then returned it to Dad when a few years before Dad died. My stepmother then had it for a while, and I received it after I found out I was having a boy and decided to name him Jackson. It is a beautiful, touching letter, and a tradition I've tried to follow with my kids by writing them letters when they were born. Here's a photo of it:

And here's the text of the letter:

Monday, October 12, 1970
Dear Son,
I have pondered long today, with your mother’s help, over the one gift which, after we have given it to you, will remain with you always – your name. It must symbolize those unreachable goals for which each of us must reach.
I give to you that which was given to me – my name. But I give you my name, and more, with the hope that you will give to your fellow man that much more than I have, or will succeed in giving.
I give you Marion – to symbolize the compassion and love which your grandfather showed for his neighbor and fellow man and to symbolize the loving tenderness of your mother.
I give you Archibald – as a symbol of strength, steadfastness and uncompromising determination.
I give you Jackson – as a symbol of dedication to love and God, epitomized by your great-grandmother and her kinsman, Thomas Jonathan.
And so, young Marion Archibald Jackson Steele, wear your name proudly, but with humility. For you have a great and noble heritage –
As I watched you today during your first few hours, as you started your long road to agonized fulfillment, your lip quivered as if in fear, after having seen that which is ahead. And, I am sure, it will quiver again and again as you experience seconds of future untold minutes. I pray that God will bestow upon me the privilege of walking by your side to encourage and help you over the rough spots as you grow toward manhood. – But grow with tenderness and love; humility and compassion; strength and perseverance. But most of all – love. Love, most of all, your mother. She is so dear to me.
Your name is a gift of permanence. And with this I give you the enduring gift of my love.
Now begin – good luck and God bless you.
Your loving father,
Marion Archibald Steele

One Month In

February is here, which means that I am one month in to 2009 and it's time to do a status check. I purposely didn't list my New Year's Resolutions for you all, because I don't need that kind of pressure. But I did tell you about my list of needs that I developed. (Oh, again with the lists! you say? Yes.)

I am happy to report: so far, so good! I made a little chart in a journal, and every night before bed I go through the chart and mark off the needs that I fulfilled that day. I also keep track of my exercise and pedometer steps. You wouldn't believe how satisfying it is for me to track my needs like this. It is a great reminder that I am not a footnote in my own life. I have concrete evidence that Elizabeth (not Mommy, not wife, not friend, but ME) is getting a piece of the pie too. It curbs my tendency to blow things out of proportion as I often do, like when I tell Dan, "I never have time to myself." Well, that just isn't true and now I have evidence of it! I highly recommend you write your own Need Chart. Because who's going to take care of YOU if you don't?

She's Crafty!

I have to share a little craft project I did today while the kids were out of the house. My friend Beth gave me a gift card to Michael's for my birthday, and it took me a whopping 48 hours before I spent the WHOLE thing. Here's one of the things I did!

I got these cute little hearts that are already pre-drilled and ready to turn into a banner.

Then I tore strips of construction paper and glued them directly onto the unfinished hearts. I printed out photos of our family members, then went crazy with stickers, ribbons, and fun foam shapes. The finishing touch was a ribbon to string it all together. I love how it turned out!

Good Writing

I just finished two books and had to share bits of them with you. Honestly, these are two books that completely spoke to me and are so truthful and raw for me.

The first is The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. Yes, I have already promised to lend it to two people. (One is my sister, one is Danielle. Did I promise it to anyone else? If so, you'll have to remind me.) But those two people are going to have to deal with the TONS of underlining that I did in the book. That's how you can tell if a book really moved me - I underline and star things that I.Must.Not.Forget. Such as:

  • "He defined me first, as parents do. Those early characterizations can become the shimmering self-image we embrace or the limited, stifling perception we rail against for a lifetime. In my case, he sees me as I would like to be seen. In fact, I’m not even sure what’s true about me, since I have always chosen to believe his version."
  • "When I called Jen to check on her [after her mom’s death], she told me that people were swarming around doing what people do: flowers, food, cards, call, favors. She said just about everyone said something like, 'Your mom had a good life. She had a lot of happiness. She was so uncomfortable. Now she’s at peace.' Well, yeah, okay, good for your mom. But what about you? What about your peace? Your comfort? Who’s gonna remember what you were for Halloween that year or the name of your fifth grade teacher? Who’s gonna loan you money to buy your first house or cry when your baby is born? Who’s gonna sit in the front row of your play? Look, Mom! This is the scene where we get engaged! Oh! You’re gonna love this part! Look at me in my white dress, Dad! How about this one – Edward and Dad play golf together! And in this next scene, we get pregnant! Hey look, Dad! Edward reads Sports Illustrated cover to cover JUSTLIKEYOU! Isn’t this a good play? Don’t you love it? Wait! There’s more! Edward gets promoted in the third act! Don’t go yet! Georgia is going to kindergarten next year! Wait ‘til you see her first swim meet! Her tiger goggles! Please stay. We bought Claire tap shoes! This part coming up ––! Claire plays the harmonica! She’s applying to Yale! Don’t LEAVE–– it gets so good!"
  • "If my mom had died young, I wouldn’t have a single memory of her. That’s why I take so many pictures and keep old art projects and pull the video camera off the top of the fridge and turn it around on myself to report on the day’s events. …I was here, girls. Every day. Helping you draw smiley faces in the condensation on the shower door, showing you how to hold scissors and twirl a pipe cleaner and play Keep It Up with a party balloon. This is my graffiti. This is me spray painting on every wall and etching in every headboard: I WAS HERE."
  • "Someday, some later day, I’ll find out what it is to be an adult – to bury someone essential, someone you don’t think you can live without, someone attached in so many places you almost fall in after them."
Oh, God. Just reading those four passages makes my heart ache all over again. I can't tell you how much this book spoke to me. It was like an answered prayer to have someone verbalize things I hadn't even acknowledged I felt. Now I have to admit I'm afraid to visit Kelly Corrigan's website because I think I might find bad news. Anyway, go get this book, y'all. And say a prayer that maybe one day I can write like Kelly Corrigan. It's a new aspiration of mine.

The second book I read also moved me as equally as the first. The funny thing is this is the second time I've read it, and it moved me just as much as the first time. That in itself is remarkable - I don't often read books twice because I already know the ending. But this book is worth it. It is Feathers From My Nest by Beth Moore. Again, she's another writer I aspire to be like. She is a Christian writer, and this book is about her story as a mother. It is so honest and real, and inspires me to be a better mother. And not just the type of mom who does crafts with her kids and teaches them the ABCs, but the type of mother who teaches her children about God's love and passion for us. Wow. This book is a challenge for me to know God better and to help Katie and Jackson know Him better too. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
  • "Homes shattered by loss can echo once again with laughter. Peace can replace chaos... but you must promise not to confuse peace with quiet. The goal is not building a monastery. Remember, God's peace is like a river, not a pond. In other words, a sense of health and well-being, both of which are expressions of the Hebrew shalom, can permeate our homes even when we're in white-water rapids."
  • "The goal of life is not the absence of pain. It's the presence of glory. God's glory. And sometimes that comes most vividly with pain."
  • "Oh, what we forfeit when we deny our hearts the right to feel. Sometimes we protect ourselves from the most precious moments in life."
  • "I think deep down inside all of us, we are absolutely terrified of placing our hopes and dreams in something that we'll discover is not even real. Masses of people out there are scared to death that God may be little more than the wizard of Oz. All volume and no action. That Jesus was a good man. A prophet perhaps, but the Son of God? Couldn't it all just be make-believe? You and I know better. The God behind this curtain is real, huge, and omnipotent. Far beyond our wildest imaginations. If the veil were drawn back while we were still mortals, we wouldn't survive the shock of His greatness. He has left us here to bear witness to what we know of Him. We were never called to explain God. We were called to be witnesses of what we've seen and experienced of Him." [emphasis mine]
Honestly, I could type dozens of quotes from this book. (I underlined LOTS.) She touches on so many areas that I am struggling with as a mother: my daughter's perception of beauty, my stress in trying to "do it all," my commitment to my marriage, my hope in my children's future. Go buy this book too, y'all. I was lucky enough that it was gifted to me (thanks, Celia!), and I'm now loaning it out to yet another friend.

Let me know if you have any Good Writing that you'd like to share!

If/Just

As parents, we live by the words if and just. They are our mantra. Our lifelines. Second by second, hour by hour, day by day, you’re doing it without even realizing it. Just like breathing. Inhale on the if and exhale on the just. These two morsels are our daily bread, our sustenance. Tiny crumbs, but they carry us through the breastfeeding and the flying food and the temper tantrums and the backtalking. Maybe even through the sneaking out and borrowed cars and first dates.

We think, “If we can just get to the next stage.” Or the next day. Or the next hour. What then? Don’t we know already that getting to the next stage brings its own complications? “If he would just sleep through the night.” We use those words to invoke magic and cast a spell of tranquility. The words are optimism at its base truth.

If invokes hope. It sustains us with the thought that the effort we’re investing right now isn’t for naught.

Just invokes entitlement. “That’s not too much to ask, is it?”

And then, there’s the thought that one day… One day. That is a phrase pregnant with possibility. Oh, how many days will it take me to suddenly realize that one day has come and gone? Those days, strung together like a necklace made by my preschooler, have slowly piled up on one another and turned my infant into a Kindergartener. They also swiftly carried me into middle age, all the while chanting, “Ifjust.” Except now, they take on a different meaning: “If I could just get that one day back.” Her second birthday. Her first bike ride. Her last nursing. Her first prayer. The day I yelled at her and broke both our hearts. If only to have just one day back. Not to change it, but to feel it again. To just be in the moment, not wishing for if any longer. Inhale and exhale, breathing and soaking it in.

"Slow down. Be still. Breathe in. Refill. Be here. Be now." (The Robbie Seay Band)

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